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© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

I got Zoom-bombed! No that’s not really much in the way of a positive experience, but it is something about which to write. I’m officially part of the post-pandemic we’re-all-in-it-together club. Still…I was angry for a minute.

The bare bones of the incident. Two weeks after first launching myself online into the Zoom world (no Jitsi, No Discord and certainly no Google Hangouts), I sign up for yet another writers’ group. I go for the greet, write and brag about word count types of groups. I sometimes read at the end of the session. The full-blown critique groups can wait…

So anyway, this group originated from a Dallas coffeehouse and wanted to open up the online writing from home experience to everyone setting the attendance limit quite high. More like the limit Zoom promises when you agree to pay for a Pro account ($150/year), say about 100 guests. Links and passwords went out.

I had been at the tail end of a successful writing day where my space pirate that also serves a mean macchiato became progressively more mind-fucked as his day went along (a playing hooky project when I don’t want to work on anything closer to print). Banging out another page and a half in the notebook seemed like a good plan.

At least 60 people or devices showed up. The first sign of trouble was a douchebag hiding behind a picture of one of those bearded gentlemen from the Middle East with whom the West likes to yell at as high order performance art (Great Satan, Dirty Persian @&$*head, you get the idea). The guy yelled a bunch of obscenities. The host guided by another member who himself hosts other Zooms out of Los Angeles tried to use the tools already at her disposal to kick the Mullah-man out.

Then the Chat function went screwy. More obscenities. Despite the guidance from the off-duty host, the actual host lost the handle on keeping her head long enough to delete anyone just there to selfishly raise hell and she canceled the meeting. Pretty sure the Zoom-bomber(s) declared victory and went home laughing. Obviously, steps were taken.

First off, once a host lets in more people than we have in fingers and toes the risk of some angry douchebag getting in increases geometrically with about every four extra RSVPed guests over 20. I have friends who are better at technology than me who when fed enough beer will loudly proclaim that nine times out of ten the user got sloppy with their passwords causing the problem themselves.

The host learned her lesson, as reported by others, that she immediately lowered the attendance limit to a slightly more manageable (49) number. Presumably there will be all sorts of verification steps like registering and being total dicks about the six-digit password. Things will work out next week…probably.

I first heard of Zoom-bombing right at the beginning of the crisis by way of a Change.org petition in my email inbox. Apparently, a black PhD candidate defended his thesis by Zoom with his family watching from their own devices. The Zoom-bombing event described seemed really bad like you could plausibly use a Dresden or a “took out Rotterdam” metaphor what with frequent N-words and dick picks. The petition was worded in an understandably hurt “Zoom must do something” tone.

I would just log on to Zoom with a link or the similar Meeting ID number, youthful innocence. Then a few days later, the link needed to have the six-digit meeting password. A few hosts required registration where you tell Zoom and the host your name and email and if they don’t match the host doesn’t have to let you in. A few days later, waiting rooms popped up where you logged in with your link, Meeting ID and/or password. A few days after that link info would appear in emails from the host using Meetup.com’s email feature in an attempt to limit who saw the information that anyone could see in a Comment box on Meetup.

Part of the problem is the age-old problem that encryption can sometimes be too complex and thus lock out the legitimate user. Follow the registration link. Here’s the meeting link with the password. It adds steps, but certain things remain constant because the codling team at Zoom knows that certain measures will Night follows Day mess with the users that drive their business model.

For instance, writers are constantly in a variable state between craving the rigid order of “I have my writers’ group at Noon on Tuesday” and the freewheeling joy of “Holy Hell, it’s a re-run of NCIS, might as well pick up my phone to finger-tap.” After a few sessions we start going to the same groups and the link numbers and passwords don’t change because even for the security minded host the hassle of distributing a new link, password and registration page every week induces baldness the way Homer Simpson went smooth (tearing his hair out).

But in the case of this hacked and bombed meeting, I’m pretty sure that the host may have to create a completely new meeting taking place at the same Bat-time and same Bat-channel. The douchebags have the link and password emboldened by the success of ending the meeting the first time to try again – “wow, it was, like, so hilarious that the writers group shut down with the PC bitch host probably blew a gasket like a cartoon!”

Yes, there’s a nasty political undercurrent to some Zoom-bombing. The racist attack on the PhD candidate. And the fact here that the host said – “I’m shutting the meeting down and for next time will have to think long and hard before admitting people who don’t look PC.” – just before closing the meeting.

Which to me as a writer understanding that my Free Speech depends on everybody’s Free Speech, I heard that as troubling in the sense that pure PC is almost equally the problem as douchebags getting a laugh lashing out randomly. Besides, I guarantee that the Mullah-man douchebag heard that comment and took both victory and validation. He’ll try again.

Why was I angry if my liberalism doesn’t run to the Pure PC end of the spectrum? I don’t need politics to get pissed at people with too much time on their hands that like to lash out at people they could safely ignore. These fuckheads wasted my time…the single most grievous sin you can do to me in my moral universe.

At least one of my stories that explain why I infrequently write screenplays and almost never co-write involves a guy only slightly less annoying than these pair (same guy with two devices?) of douchebags. And don’t get me started on how I feel about other people wasting my time since Mom died. If I’m goofing off, I’m not wasting time, but doing something else almost as important as the words…for the moment.

And then there’s the sense of basic respect. Since I’ll get snippy about you wasting my time when I want to spend it working, I assume you’ll be the same way. Besides I can pull a book off my shelf or try to figure out the next three bars of my much-delayed Concerto for Harmonica in F to have things to do inside.

Of course, the I’ve heard variations on the refrain, “what is it with these people that need to do this? Even without being a writer there’s plenty of things to do in the average house!” – or the similar – “who has the time to do this?” – at least twice, once before the Zoom-bombing and once after. There’s no understanding it, some people need to lash because they think it’s funny to watch someone get angry. And there’s the nasty politics underneath, racist douchebags seem motivated enough to make the time. Being that racist and angry also sort of answers the first rant too, we don’t understand the emotion and for the immature among them we’ve forgotten how whiny we got when we were bored as kids.

Several plus sides though. It’s been the better part of five weeks that I have slowly increased my daily Zooms. Only one session has been Zoom-bombed so I’m ahead of the game. The host will figure out her game and life will go on.

And the other thing, Zoom has been a godsend for my productivity. I used to go to coffeehouses either alone and for the in-person version of these groups. I was productive. Measured by squares checked off on my to do list, my best weeks have doubled my before output and more normal weeks the increase runs more like 50-percent more. I just need to save up enough money for an espresso/cappuccino machine and maybe I never leave the house except to support a restaurant I like.

Anyway, I got Zoom-bombed. I took it personally for a minute and a half. I now have a story to tell my nephews – “back in the 2020 Lockdown, there was this one writers’ group that got Zoom-bombed, you shoulda heard what those assholes said…good times!”

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© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

Yet another monster of the week, the Car from Hell. Calling it the Baneful Blue Car is really a Marketing Department decision to go with the toys I have for the picture.

What makes it the Car from Hell? It drives by itself. It hates people in general or perhaps specifically. It mows them down on the pavement because…why not? It’s a really simple and apparently can’t miss horror concept. Stephen King goes back to it more than once (Christine, Trucks/Maximum Overdrive, From a Buick 8). And I keep meaning to publish the collection in which my own effort Cadillac Crusader appears…never mind.

Like most other story tropes, the writer can bend the Car from Hell to his/her own purposes. Even Mr. King varied it up a bit going with a dysfunctional romance between car and driver, or a post-apocalyptic epic of trucks in revolt, almost a slave uprising. I’ll get back to you when I dig up From a Buick 8. Mine had two Cars from Hell, former enemies from the Third Crusade (neither side acquitted themselves very well) who spoke the words that Melville put in Ahab’s mouth at the end of Moby Dick imprinting their anger onto their swords that were later melted down into auto steel. Essentially a heavy-handed treatise on tolerance from very soon after 9-11.

Why does the car drive itself? Usually, the author doesn’t explain beyond a few sentences. Christine, an almost stereotypical Candy Apple red Plymouth Fury (kinda on the nose, Mr. King, just sayin’) just starts killing people from jump on the production line. An evil car from birth. The trucks go nuts because of a passing comet.

The filmmakers of the Christine knockoff movie The Car pretty much just said – “it’s like a demon with bullet-resistant windshields, what did you think I’d give schematics?” I think my deal where a Third Crusade Christian and his blood enemy from among the Society of Assassins imprint their rage upon their swords is about the closest anyone has come to actually explaining the Car from Hell.

Unless perhaps the car is an AI creation of a pissed off mad scientist. It’s always a choice to go with people creating their own problems. Hubris and other forms of lethal stupidity all in one package.

And now we’re back to that scary fan theory about Disney’s Cars where the cars with the big eyes in the windshield are AIs that adopted the personality of their last drivers. So does that mean that Lightning McQueen once drove with Frankenstein (David Carradine)? Or perhaps Matilda the Hun, from before her taking up the Nazi motifs with her Buzzbomb car? Now I’m going to some dark places.

Anyway, it isn’t accidental that I’m tying into the Deathrace 2000 franchise. The difference between death races and Car from Hell is the human at the wheel. Anyway, if our world building says that the AI cars are like impressionable children waiting to learn from “responsible” adults then the Car from Hell very much could be a former death race wagon turning on its former masters. The cars are either done hauling our groceries, like Mr. King’s trucks, or maybe we’re all sick, didn’t stay inside and the getting smeared across the pavement is less painful. The writer/gamemaster gets to choose these things.

This column is loosely about how do you use these monsters in a campaign or other narrative. Several questions need to be asked…

What is the Car from Hell’s relationship to gasoline?

This is a big one that isn’t always addressed. More theological versions of the Car from Hell, like The Car, are just steel-clad demons. If a demon steals a possessed soul’s body and walks around in it for many centuries after the normal sell by date, then the same demon that possesses a 1971 steel gray Lincoln Town Car doesn’t really have to worry about stopping at the Arco.

The movie version of Christine wasn’t depicted stopping at gas stations. But the story undergoes a progression where the red witch car reveals herself slowly as she ensnares her driver-lover becoming viciously powerful in the Third Act. Says to me that if Mr. King thought the car should be limited by gasoline then the car would wheedle and whine until her human rolled up to the pump…ala Audrey the plant begging, “FEED ME!”

The writer that wants the unkillable car will mentally come up with some means of alternate fueling. Pulling water vapor and using electrolysis to crack it into hydrogen and oxygen and then reburning them in the cylinders seems a good approach. Answering the gas question is important…

When I adroitly plagiar…uh, homaged the Car from Hell trope in my own work, the gas problem was the solution. When dealing with count ‘em two cars, the female protagonist pissed the cars off making her bait for her boyfriend the wizard with a handy increased entropy spell. She lures to the LA River. He creates a dome where fuel efficiency goes from, say, 30 mpg to something with the opposite measurement, gallons per mile, the average Main Battle Tank for those keeping score on Quora.

What are the rules for the car taking damage through the course of the story?

Again, the writer/gamemaster is just going to do what he/she wants, all have their place.

James Brolin and his deputies put several 12-guage shells into the Lincoln. Nothing. Dialogue about assuming a set of armor, but it was a literal Car from Hell running down sinners who cuss and curse. It couldn’t enter the old cemetery with a cross, but could enter and open a garage door despite, “no hands, Ma!” And because explosions are always good to end movies, the villagers lured the car to where they could dynamite the cliff onto the car. The demon inside flees the car sneering in the fiery mushroom cloud only to be seen in Los Angeles driving past the Music Center…

Some cars will uncrunch reverting back to normal because the sheer force of evil always seems to want to keep biting our kneecaps off. Christine did this. My hell cars did this and yes using the gasoline problem in the same story is clearly one of those Because I Said So events where when asked for details the best bet is usually, “Hey, what’s that over there!” Other cars will be the hell car equivalent of Eleanor…simply tough to kill.

Okay, I’ll close this out suggesting actual hit points and such for the cars. Keeping it simple…the car has the equivalent of full plate armor. I just sort of assumed that an easy way to assign hit points would be to have the GM look up the horsepower rating of the car being pressganged into service as a hell car. There’re your hit points right there, about 150 hp for rice burners on up to 350 for say a Camaro.

Keep it simple. Don’t cuss. And have the car aim for center mass…

 

 

 

 

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© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

Okay, for this one I’m just going to let you in on several related little secrets…my mother asserted car as my first word. Love driving them, except when I have to deliver your pizza or proof of service (a story for another day and another blog). Slightly know what I’m talking about when the hood’s up; comes from that one time it was still possible to change out an alternator on a motor where said part was at the top of the block.

Get gently yelled at over the size of my Matchbox/Hot Wheels collection by that sister sort of acting like Marie Kondo right now pretty much daily. Went kart racing just enough times to fake it for the story. Used to know the Indy Car guys backwards and forwards, less so F1 and Endurance. Whined really loudly when Mom decreed Speed Racer (unless it’s a G-Damn slow news day and I’m loaded respect for the anime says I’ll never comment on the live action here) to be too violent.

Have pulled Reverse J-Turns during my misspent youth. Have Deathrace 2,000 memorized even to the level of laughing at all references to – “the evil French.” And my first major series protagonist didn’t go pro because she liked writing better.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that the Ford GT-40, the subject of the movie Ford V. Ferrari is my single favorite closed-wheel car that didn’t appear in Speed Racer? From your perspective, objectivity just left the building with Elvis. Good thing, it’s verifiably a great movie…

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There isn’t really anything bad to say about this mostly true semi-tragic buddy movie about a driver, Ken Miles (Christian Bale), and his good friend builder and former driver, Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), teaming up to spend Ford Motor Company’s money to give the hated Enzo Ferrari a metaphorical punch in the nose in the pasta rocket manufacturer’s home break sport of endurance racing, specifically the 24 Hours of Le Mans. All because the Italian gentleman called Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) fat and his cars and factory ugly when Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) reports back from the failure to woo Ferrari from Fiat.

And so it’s a story about boys and their cars. Complete with that special gleam we get when we have the wagon just so. And the somewhat difficult personalities associated with doing cars at the top of the game. A movie where two headstrong personalities throw wrenches and fists at each other all to get that last ounce of performance and air flow over the car body.

Matt Damon as Shelby quickly becomes the translator between the pure driver of Christian Bale as Miles and the business-oriented executives at Ford put in charge of the team. Primarily, this plays out with Josh Lucas playing Leo Beebe, a senior VP likely to insist that Ken Miles “just isn’t a Ford type driver,” during the GT40’s disastrous first year (1965) racing at Le Mans. Shelby apparently solved the problem by going around Leo Beebe and taking Mr. Ford out for a spin in the car…leaving him crying in the shotgun seat. A highlight of the movie.

All throughout 1966, problems with the car, mostly brakes bedevil the team headquartered at LAX. Solutions come from everywhere in the team including redesigning the entire braking system for easy replacement, something that had never exactly been done before under the Le Mans rules. The creative interpretation of – “gentlemen, the rulebook says part and changing out the entire brake system is a part.” – is one of the other highlights of the movie.

Of course, it being a movie and not a Wide World of Sports special, we do have to come off the track and do a little bit of storytelling in rooms, houses and cars. Mostly we get to see Ken Miles’s relationship with his wife, Mollie Miles (Caitrona Balfe), and son Peter (Noah Jupe). We get to see that Ken Miles was really too good at cars without much businessman in him to keep his garage in the Valley from going belly up.

A marriage where the wife drops the hammer on the family Ford station wagon on a lonely two-lane blacktop road revealing that professional drivers really hate being passengers is interesting in the best of times. The scenes with Peter reveal a deep abiding familial love where the idea is to share passion and perhaps a few skills.

And then we finally get to Le Mans 1966, where Ford takes three separate GT40 teams to the endurance race. Once the race officials agree with the Ford interpretation of the rulebook concerning ripping out the whole brake assembly, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that all three Fords will take the top three finishes at the race, especially with all the Ferraris killing themselves before the finish.

Even at this late date, all is not perfect in the race. The cars were driven differently with some teams keeping to the company directives as to how fast and hard to drive the car. Meanwhile, Carroll Shelby puts 7,000+RPM on the chalkboard for Ken Miles, letting him drive full out. Leo Beebe then hits on a “great idea” to slow Miles down so the other Fords can catch up for the great picture of all the Fords crossing the finish line at the same time. I remain surprised that this character agreed.

Anyway, Ford v. Ferrari is exactly what you expect, a racing movie with all the crashes, cool maneuvers and drama in the pits where people do sometimes die. Filmmakers know all the tricks like getting the right music and making the cars look beautiful even disintegrating after pranging in Turn 3. Good thing the real story happening off the appears to have been as equally able to hold the viewer’s interest. A worthy rental…

© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

Pop quiz. What effect will the current emergency have on various literary genres like Noir or the larger category of Crime? Don’t know, it’ll be interesting either way when we live long enough to see.

The LA Times (see post) recently asked this question of several LA based Crime writers known for writing Noir stories. Fascinating read about things I already generally know including that writers who create in this field tend to use their personal experiences, fears and hang-ups to create their themes, characters and plots. To be fair, all writers do this regardless of the genre we choose, whether Noir to directly face our demons raging behind our eyeballs or, say, Fantasy when it’s time to get running and do anything else anywhere else.

The article highlighted various authors and explained how and why they developed their characters, settings and themes. One lost friends to the AIDS crisis. Others might develop a ‘Sherlock in the hood’ property. You get the idea…

What is Noir? It’s a style of Crime fiction that emphasizes the emotional despair inherent in our bad acts to each other. People do bad things to each other out of need, hate, jealousy, you name it. These acts happen in a milieu of indifference set against a paladin always out for justice and becoming bitter in the process. Symbols of hope, like children or Phillip Marlowe finding the right woman and retiring to Poodle Springs (Palm Springs in the real world) are typically extirpated off the page or saved for the last book in the series.

At least one author asserted that the current emergency wouldn’t affect the genre per se, but that the books set post-lockdown would go nuts and totally off the chain. I agree right up until I don’t. The main reason for this statement is we’re all inside. Inside equals less crime until we’re released by the societal hall monitor to hang out in our favorite restaurants. And then we might see hardboiled characters getting mugged in the parking lot at Lawry’s setting off a chain of tragedy…

The small part of this assertion that I don’t quite buy into is the implication that the emotional turmoil driving Noir runs in waves. The original classics (Phillip Marlowe among them) are rooted in the Great Depression. Dig deep enough and you’ll find stories set in the 1960s with the change from trust society to question authority. Other characters exist as a result of drug wars and so on.

I’ve been alive and able to read the newspaper for a few decades now. I just don’t remember the bullshit coming in waves. It always feels like it’s there lurking under the surface waiting for the right person in a presently fearful, depressed or angry state to rake it up and vomit it onto the page. Finding the Noir is thus a personal choice. My other thought is that Noir is the literary equivalent of the Blues where you sing about your worst day and feel better because you shared it with people lessening the hurt.

In my youth, we had child molester living in the unit over the garage in a house three doors north from my house. The scumbag liked little girls and so I was blissfully immune, but the younger sister next door wasn’t. I was told about it by my mother because she told me almost everything, but I was then instructed not to speak about it casually because it just wasn’t polite conversation.

Looking back, this incident is relevant because without therapy the girl next door would grow up like Evelyn Mulwray, the ultimate Noir femme fatale with an agenda. More importantly, my memory of the time (late 1970s) was of a cocoon where we’d gotten used to the changes of the previous decade and were just getting on with life. Yes, other perspectives from that time might have more to say that somewhere in the world someone is always getting fucked over.

Another example that began earlier and went later well into the 1990s, the neighbors on my first street were really messed up despite presenting the façade of the perfect Catholic family. The father was an alcoholic resulting in the usual emotional douchebaggery conducted behind closed doors. The mother cheated rather than getting divorced waiting out her husband dying of natural causes to marry her long-term lover. Yet another case where my perception of the era would’ve landed between the sturm und drang moments of our recent history.

As I read the article, I also had the thought that I’m just the sort of contrarian to challenge the wait until after the lockdown mindset.

I immediately thought of all over us being locked down as a taunt to indulge in the Locked Room murder. In the real world the body in the Locked Room is always a suicide, but it’s been fascinating to image the possibilities as a thought experiment. Barney Collier (Greg Morris) in Mission Impossible famously used a gear driven screwdriver to open an air vent grate from inside the shaft. And we have yet to set MacGyver on the problem.

Another possible way around the ‘we’re all inside’ limitation of the moment is to make being inside part of the story. And to reiterate the immortal truth of ‘don’t open the fucking door!’ Yes, suddenly we’ve just crossed The Big Sleep with Key Largo (everybody is inside for the hurricane), but I bring it up just to spark the creativity of seeing a limitation as a challenge.

Another way I might set a Noir during the emergency instead of after is to cheat and steal from other genres. I’ve already created concepts of surrogates like flesh droids in which a mindless body exists for people who can pay to ride around pretending to be firefighters and such. Easily repurposed so that the flesh droids shoot and betray each other.

And in another incomplete brain fart I took one of the darker fan theories about Disney’s Cars franchise – the anthropomorphic cars were self-driving AI vehicles that bonded directly to the sick bedridden humans to which they gave care by adopting their last driver’s personality after they died. My slight variation on this concept assumed the humans were still alive at home being told about their cars’ doings at the end of the day. Ripe for some kind of Virus Noir stories.

I’m also waiting for the Noir that takes place in the narrow spaces online between, say, The Sims or Second Life on the one hand and all the mayhem we imagine we can unleash on Zoom. I don’t know…come up with some means for the killer to hack our smart houses to kill people in the physical world. I agree that these thoughts might be too much SF for some people, but then I’m the guy that sometimes comes up with wacky player pitches reaching everywhere in our shared database.

We’re inside now. Give it a few months and we’re going to start writing about it. The world is different than a mere ten days ago. Some will charge head on into our fears with a modern Noir for the age. Others will seemingly avoid it going for the latest and greatest Fantasy, Romance or whatever. I’m also kinda waiting for a Lord of the Rings knockoff where the quest McGuffin causes diseases (yes, I went there). But, that is another brain fart for another post.

The emergency will change everything. Be safe.

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© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

People my age or older who don’t write are sometimes a trip and a half. One common refrain to raise its ugly head in discourse is the one about handwriting…specifically cursive. Few schools teach it. No one under the age of tadpole seems to know how to read it and I’m not sure I care.

The arguments go like this…

  1. “You lose the ability to read the original citizenship documents and other great works of our past that are handwritten, which means that unscrupulous people can trick you by changing those words in the dead of night.”
  2. “It’s an important discipline to teach the student how to mentally organize their thoughts or…”
  3. “Science shows that teaching cursive is better for a developing mind and…”
  4. “How else will a student learn to create a distinctive signature?”
  5. “It’s a good backup skill for when the power goes out.”

There might be a few more, but I think that covers it for now.

Option 1 also known as The Animal Farm Argument sounds like a reasonable concern. The Pigs did change the Farm’s Constitution in the dead of night to the infamous dicta – “Some animals are more equal than others.”

I might gently ascribe to this thinking when the subject is English instruction as a whole asserting a visit to the Library of Congress as an American civil variation of the Hajj to Mecca. That as long as the original documents exist and we learn English the bad guys can’t change the copy printed in the back of the Eighth Grade Civics textbook, which is the version we actually read…or not.

I’ve already conducted that civil hajj. In the late Seventies, I took the trip to Washington. The Constitution and Declaration were at the time kept in their matching argon-filled bullet-resistant polycarbonate vaults at the Library of Congress. Cool…except for the part about not getting closer than twenty feet.

The logic of the Animal Farm Argument requires a ten-year-old to jump the rope line with textbook in hand to compare texts. I didn’t think of it at the time, in part because we don’t really teach the Original Documents in class until you are in the eighth grade and get issued the aforementioned Eighth Grade Civics textbook. Also, this was long before tablets and Kindles…the textbook in question is a lot to lug in the line for a ten-year-old only about two bad breakfast burritos away from – “Fuck the old parchment! Show me the planes and rockets a couple doors down at the Air and Space Museum!”

Bringing things around to the specific argument for cursive, the above makes even less sense. The documents in question may have been handwritten, but with an eye towards public display. This meant that what is actually protected by the vault is written carefully with a script that isn’t block printing, but isn’t the average handwriting, then or now, either.

When they let people get close enough to take pictures for the Wikipedia article, we see they’re far more decipherable than we sometimes credit as we bemoan the loss of cursive. And let’s face it, no other handwritten document in English matters except to the historians who in the future will take college level classes on reading cursive. The same way that people who want to teach Greco-Roman Classics and other Old And Presumably Important Cultural Documents at the college level take Ancient Greek, Classical Latin, Sanskrit and other such languages…as electives. Who then make decent livings translating for the rest of us.

The people espousing Option 2 scare the shit out of me. I didn’t have any traumas associated with learning cursive the way I might’ve landing in that one high school English class with the hippie-dippy teacher. You know, she never met a Baghwan she didn’t love and went out of her way to kill enjoyment of Hamlet due to an overreliance on symbolism and “what it all means” in her teaching method.

But I do remember a huge amount of tedium tracing the letters, just so, early on. And then you grow up a little and they just tell you to write your five-paragraph essay. I was never dinged nor praised for my handwriting. I turned in some of my papers with printing or a mix of print and cursive. My grade was the same…I either spelled my words correctly and made a logical argument while demonstrating that I’d read the source material or I didn’t. Sometimes I didn’t do the essay…another form of a lack of discipline that cursive practice didn’t solve.

I have friends who teach and may quit as soon as their health benefits and pensions vest. The common refrain for the current spate of not liking the job is that students don’t read, don’t do homework, don’t write and don’t even do the work when time is given in class, because homework is frowned on. So, teaching cursive will magically solve this?

Seems to me that the people who lead with Option 2 are like the old-timey doctors that resisted the move in medical school for shorter less crushing intern shifts in the teaching hospital – “I survived it, so you have to do it too.” Almost like abusers passing their curse down through the generations.

Despite the fact that while we haven’t completely eliminated paper, we’ve come close. We send documents back and forth using PDF files that you either print out, sign and rescan or there are apps that create a digital signature with the same legal effect. We send emails, texts and social media links.

As a GenX in-betweener, I can talk about feeling a strange joy getting a card recently from my biological mother who still trusts pen and paper. Yes, I can read her words. On one hand, I speak piously about just doing my first draft at the keyboard, or on the converse that I fill up notebooks either paper or digital by the score because moving the stick we call Pen or Stylus helps me work out my more stupid ideas.

However, none of that handwriting is in cursive and hasn’t been for a long time. You’d think the idea of working out certain ideas on paper or the notetaking app in need of an Apple Pen would mean I would be in the cursive camp. Not when I have printing for that.

All through my school years, I might start an essay question in cursive and finish in printing. Never really figured out the why. They tell us that cursive which keeps the pen nib on the paper saves time. I personally never noticed it, especially since my hands, wrist and elbow still ache and the same general amount of time elapses between Blank Page and Done. And I nearly always ended the essay or blue book test in printing.

Writers accumulate the wreckage of our collective writing pasts. Boxes of notebooks. Copies of this or that, some with markups. So, if I do become important enough for people do some literary archeology on my box (slowly migrating to Dropbox) and I end up printing anyway without noticing any lost time or quality, it makes sense to just print to make my detritus more readable from jump. You know, indulge a bit of ego to make it easy for scholars to understand me in the future. It’s an ego driven avocation to think I have a story to tell that you want to hear.

The science argument. This disposes easily – “cite your sources.” I haven’t seen any citations. Maybe cursive helps young minds develop. And maybe the content on that piece of paper does the same thing. The teachers that wanted me to write whatever I liked as extra credit are the teachers I remember as being my personal Mr. Holland (just without the music). The draft of my magnum opus about Jesus rolling up to Mount Olympus to demand the keys was delivered mostly in printing and then typed and saved my grade for the semester. Which has more impact?

Moving on to the signature argument. Makes sense, I suppose. Mine is derived from my leftover cursive when I intentionally just took my signature from how I would just write my name. But then I’ll put my dad’s signature in juxtaposition, a squiggle that barely has a R, a J and an S in it that has no other relationship to cursive. Why? He believed forgers would freak out getting his right trying to steal checks. Seems to me that we can put any old thing down on the credit/debit slip as long as we do the same thing every time.

As for the power going out. I print. Got it covered. There you have it. I don’t like cursive, not then and less now when it really doesn’t matter to society. Thus endeth the opinion.